Looking for the Messiah
It all started with some pictures on the internet. Depictions of Donald Trump as Jesus. Trump as the hand of Jesus. Trump being guided by Jesus. Donald Trump snuggling with Jesus. You can even purchase posters of Trump with Jesus on Amazon. Through these pictures, Donald Trump, a deeply flawed human person is depicted as the Savior of humankind. The more bad things Trump is accused of doing, the more his followers compare him to Jesus. Some deeply religious people, mostly poor, white, and working class, really believe that only Donald Trump can save us from (Fill in the Blank) troubles. This man who brags about grabbing women by their pussies, among other violent fantasies towards all kinds of people, is viewed by many as the Messiah.
But this search for the Messiah does not stop there. Consider Andrew Tate, self-proclaimed misogynist who told people that a real man dominated women. He sold a dream of masculinity on the internet. He allegedly made his money by pimping out women on OnlyFans. And was arrested in Romania for the human trafficking of women. Andrew Tate is a bad person. But, he told people on YouTube that he was God's favorite. He actually told people he was their savior. First he proclaimed himself the Christian Savior, then he changed his religion and proclaimed himself the Islamic Savior. His social media posts have billions of views, and he has millions of devoted followers, mostly young men, many of whom believe he is indeed, the savior. They made images of him as a Christ figure. So many images. Many of his followers post about him as their savior. This man, who is on a mission to destroy women’s lives, is viewed as the only path to saving humankind. He is viewed by many as the Messiah.
Here is another example. Keith Raniere told people he had the answers to achieving human development and potential. Women who made it into the exclusive enclaves of the organization were sexually abused, branded, and treated as slaves. Raniere suggested that he was a Christ like figure, even convincing women that sex with him could cure their ailments, and that his semen was supernatural. At one point his organization had 700 active members, mostly women. Mostly middle and upper class. The women believed that Raniere was their savior.
How about the QAnon cult leader who sent his followers to Dallas, twice, to wait for the second coming of John F. Kennedy Jr. John F. Kennedy Jr. died in an airplane accident in 1999. This group believes that JFK Jr.’s resurrection/reappearance would be timed so that he could become Donald Trump’s next Vice President. Many of these people are still waiting for Kennedy to reappear, to save them and the United States from (again, Fill in The Blank) problems. While I can’t find the Jesus images, yet, online, the clear narrative of Kennedy’s resurrection fits neatly into the Christian belief of Jesus as the Messiah who was killed and then resurrected to save all of humankind.
Also, for what it’s worth, I have a friend who tells me she found her spiritual leader and personal savior on TikTok.
Seeking the Savior
It seems to me that we, and by that I mean the collective “we,” are looking for charismatic individuals who can save us from some mostly imaginary bad guy. If you want proof, search for images of Donald Trump and Andrew Tate as Jesus.
Once we find a person who communicates well, we (the collective we) put all our faith, money, time, blind commitment into these people.
And then we turn them loose, with our blessings, to do terrible things.
But they are Not Saviors
The sad part is that these people often have given us all the information that we need to recognize the scam. Andrew Tate told his followers that he is "absolutely a sexist" and "absolutely a misogynist." Raniere proclaimed that women felt freedom during rape and that young children liked having sex with adults. Donald Trump famously said he could shoot somebody and not lose voters.
The most common response from committed followers? Denials, misrepresentations, and increasingly, death threats to those who insist on pointing out this information.
Seeking the Savior Makes a Distorted Sense
In some ways, looking for the Savior makes sense given the social and environmental upheavals changing the landscape of our world. For example, global warming means that many farmers are forced to farm at night, to change what they produce, or to fully change how they produce our food. The political environment is in a state of crisis with a rise in autocracies and theocracies, even in an established Democracy like the United States. War has returned to Europe and to the Middle East, along with a threat of nuclear war. COVID, gendered violence, resurging white supremacy, artificial intelligence, mental health crises, all of these things have conspired to both create and reveal a precarious world that makes resilience both necessary and impossible.
So yeah, things are kind of bad right now.
When faced with lots of big problems, you might think that we would use our collective ingenuity to systematically face those problems down, solving them as they emerge.
But no. Instead, we start looking for the Messiah. A savior figure who will provide the answers and save the day.
Looking for the Messiah in All the Wrong Places
I keep thinking of the lyrics to Johnny Lee's song "looking for love in all the wrong places."
We are looking for the Messiah in all the wrong places. Our constant searching for the savior means two things. One, we are going to become increasingly susceptible to cult cultures. Two, our problems are going to keep getting worse.
So let's all agree on a few truths. We are not going to find the savior on the internet. We are not going to find the savior in politics. Stop. Just stop.
If not the Messiah, then Who will Solve our Serious Problem?
I do not pretend to have the answers, but I do have some possible starting points that come from my many years studying communication.
First, the solutions to our problems will not come from an individual. We need to work collectively to solve our problems.
The problems we face are not "simple." They are complex and complicated. Let's start by acknowledging this reality.
The first step to solving problems is to acknowledge that the problems are real. Global warming anyone?
Never ever expect a politician to be the savior. It is okay to like their plans. It is okay to hope that they will follow through on their promises. But never trust without verification.
Finally, people, we need to rediscover our in-person communities. The answer is not going to appear on some random person's Facebook page. The answers are going to appear through hard work, dedication, and honest connection. That is all.
Freya Clark is a gifted child artist who raises rabbits and plays sports.
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